Monday, February 25, 2013

Kwami Ahiabnenu II for Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship

Mr.Kwami Ahiabenu II, founder and president of the International Institute for ICT Journalism, an Accra-based organization that promotes journalistic innovation and professionalism across Africa through the effective use of information communication technologies (ICT) has been awarded a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellowship by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in Washington, D.C. NED is a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world with funding from the USA Congress.

Named in honor of the two principal founders of NED, former USA President Ronald Reagan and the late congressman Dante Fascell, the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program enables democracy activists, practitioners, scholars, and journalists from around the world to deepen their understanding of democracy and enhance their ability to promote democratic change.

Under Mr. Ahiabenu’s leadership, Penplusbytes established the African Elections Project, which seeks to enhance the ability of mainstream media and citizen journalists to harness the power of ICT technologies to provide timely, relevant, and impartial election coverage and analysis. One of Ghana’s foremost experts on information technology and democracy, Mr. Ahiabenu has conducted numerous ICT trainings for African journalists and has written extensively on the political uses of information technology, including mobile phones and development, micro-blogging, community radio, and social media. He is also involved in accountability projects aimed at strengthening the media’s monitoring role over the extractive sector in Ghana and Uganda.

Mr. Ahiabenu also serves on the board of the USA based Center for Media and Peace Initiative (CMPI), an independent international nonprofit organization dedicated to the highest standards in journalism. He is Co-Chair of African Media Forum for Geographic Information System (AMFGIS) which seeks to promote collaboration, information and knowledge sharing on geospatial information, science and technology issues and its impact on a country’s socio-economic development under the auspices United Nations Commission for Africa (UNECA) and has recently been appointed as governing council member of the African University College of Communication (AUCC). He is also a recipient of Steve Biko Fellowship and Foster Davis Fellowship for African Journalists.

During this fellowship, Mr. Ahiabenu plans to develop guidelines for enabling ordinary citizens use information technology to track local government expenditure and ensure that public funds are being used for their intended purposes.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Penplusbytes Offers Training Opportunity for Journalists in Oil and Gas Reporting

International Institute of ICT Journalism (Penplusbytes) will be carrying out an extensive media capacity building programme for suitably qualified journalists from the Southern and Northern sectors of Ghana interested in oil and gas reporting.

The program, which begins in mid April 2013 will run for a period of 6 months and offer an extensive learning opportunity for 10 qualified journalists. The purpose of this training program is to improve coverage of oil and gas stories by the Ghanaian media leading to an increase in the quantity and quality (in terms of in-depth and investigative reporting) of oil and gas stories thus resulting in the media playing an effective watchdog role over Ghana’s Oil and Gas revenues and resources.

The training which forms part of  the “Empowering the media to play an active role over oil and gas revenue and resources” project being funded by STAR-Ghana, will comprise of workshops, interviews and informal ‘roundtables’, regular mentoring, field trips,  and debates with technical experts and journalists from Ghana.

Sandra Mills, Program Associate of Penplusbytes adds that “this training will be an interactive one which will involve reviews and assistance offered to trainees as they produce stories and explore the issues involved in reporting on extractives sector to better educate the general public and provide CSOs with the necessary information to effectively hold government accountable over the oil gas revenues and resources.” 

As a competitive process, places will be offered to reporters who make the strongest applications. Prospective applicants are requested to provide the following:

1. Provide examples of any stories or mp3’s related to the extractive industries you have written or broadcast (clearly showing your byline where applicable and date of publication)
2. A short biography - no more than 200 words
3. A brief statement explaining how deepening your understanding of oil and gas reporting will contribute to your professional development and that of your media house (200 words maximum)
4. Write a pitch for a story on extractives you would like to pursue – who would you interview and why, what would be the angle and focus of the story and how this relates to your audience
5 Contact information of your editor – telephone, email, postal and physical address
All applications regarding this program must be submitted before or on 4th March, 2013 via email to

PENPLUSBYTES  is a registered not for profit organization since 18th July 2001 with the vision of driving excellence in ICT journalism.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Baseline survey open data, open government and data journalism in Ghanaian newsroom

Baseline survey open data, open government and data journalism in Ghanaian newsroom


The International Institute of ICT Journalism (Penplusbytes), Ghana's premier new media organization, is undertaking a baseline survey on how newsrooms in Ghana plans to take advantage of opportunities offered by open data, open government and how they are investing in data journalism skills development. This study is coming at the time, Ghana is expected to pass the Freedom of Information Law which will unlock droves of data for the newsrooms and the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) undertaking Ghana Open Data Initiative ( to make government data online. The World Bank's Open Data initiative ( ) is also making bank's lending operations data available.


An unparalleled open data opportunity to help journalists tell compelling high impact stories is now a present reality.

Please take a few minutes to respond to these questions to enable us build a growing body of sector knowledge in this important area



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Monday, February 11, 2013

Free online training series in data journalism

Knight Digital Media Center at UC Berkeley is offering four one hour-long interactive classes in data journalism, for those who are looking for a short crash course.

The sessions are:
  • spreadsheet basics
  • introduction to data visualisation
  • communicating with maps
  • introduction to data mapping
There are only only 200 spots per session and registration opens on Monday, February 18, 8AM PST.

More details here:
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International Institute for ICT Journalism

Georgia Tech Explores the Digital Future of Journalism

As technology continues to transform the business of news dissemination, what role does computation play in the practice of journalism—both today and in the future? Last week, the Georgia Tech College of Computing tried to answer that question through the second “Computation + Journalism Symposium,” held Jan. 31-Feb. 1. The event brought together leading academics and practitioners from both the computation and journalism worlds to discuss how computation has affected the world of news, and where it is going in the future.

“Computational journalism describes the impact of modern computational methods and tools on the field of journalism,” said symposium organizer Irfan Essa, professor in the School of Interactive Computing, who coined the phrase “computational journalism” to describe this new field of study. “The symposium identified valuable thematic takeaways for incorporating emerging technology more closely into the journalism vocation, so that information may be packaged and distributed most effectively for the purpose of civil engagement.”

The two-day symposium featured professors from Columbia, the University of California-Berkley, Cornell, Dartmouth and Georgia Tech as well as journalists from The Atlantic, Wired, Reuters, BuzzFeed and The New York Times Magazine. Session topics covered of a variety of issues including media economy, data verification, social media analysis, digital storytelling and mobile, video, and artificial intelligence technologies. The event also generated lively discussions on Twitter, making the event hashtag (#compj) the top trending hashtag in Atlanta during the event.

The symposium’s speakers, online discussions and attendee exit surveys helped pinpoint the takeaways Essa mentioned, which include:
•    Journalists must become computationally competent to help shape the tools they need
•    Audiences expect journalists to interact & build trust through technology
•    Journalists must collaborate with other disciplines to thrive

Takeaway #1: Journalists need to be educated in computational literacy in order to make tools, not just use them.

Due to the speeds at which news and technology are evolving, developing useful computational tools for journalists is difficult. Presently, there is a gap between the technology that currently exists and the technology that should exist. As a result, journalists should be educated in the methods of designing and building technological tools that are fundamental in this fast-paced, technology-driven world.  During the opening session, Phil Meyer, professor emeritus and former holder of the Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, emphasized the types of training that should be required of journalists today.

“There are new tools and ways to get information, but we still need to teach journalists how to recognize valuable news and how to tell the story,” Meyer said. “Journalists must be taught critical thinking, how to incorporate the scientific method into their work, and how to make new tools, not just use them”

Takeaway #2: Instead of simply attracting audiences, journalists should focus on interacting and building trust with those audiences. Technological tools are necessary to accomplish that goal.

Historically, journalists have been concerned with citing facts to reveal truth. However, it is increasingly difficult to sort through the massive amounts of data available in a technology-driven age. As a result, building trust among their audience is more imperative in journalism than ever before and journalists must learn how to utilize technology in order to apply the large amounts of data available.

"Content from the social web plays an increasingly important role in almost every major news story,” said David Clinch, editorial director for Storyful, the first social media newswire. “A key set of problems for news organizations in regard to social content is discovery, verification and access to the videos and images that emerge.”

Computational tools are instrumental in verifying data and, as a result, helping establish trust among one’s audience. During his presentation at the symposium, Clinch described how Storyful has developed a process, which they have dubbed the "human algorithm," that combines cutting-edge technology and traditional journalism to help news clients know the content Storyful provides is verified, has a full context around it and has been cleared for them to use on all their platforms.

“Journalists,” Meyer added, “must focus on building a reputation for reliability and trust and not news that has entertainment value simply to reach the largest audience.”

Storyful’s method is one of several examples of how new technology is revolutionizing the way journalists identify insightful and accurate data. The symposium highlighted other computational tools, such as artificial intelligence (smart data gathering, for instance), video and mobile technologies, that are rapidly altering the way journalists gather and disseminate news. Similarly, display technologies (how information is presented on a device) are changing, requiring journalists to keep up with a reader’s expectations for how they can interact with information.

Takeaway #3: Collaboration across a variety of disciplines is key in order for the field of journalism to evolve alongside technology.

“This event created an imperative dialogue between journalists and technologists,“ Essa said. “Academia needs to study and develop tools that can then be widely disseminated to journalists, especially since research and development are difficult to accomplish from the journalists’ side.”

Essa added that, as computer-driven forces like automation and aggregation increasingly alter the role of journalists and journalism in society, computation can become a force of deliberate, positive social impact in journalism and civic life. However, in order for computation and journalism to work together successfully, further collaboration is required.

“Historically, there has been doom and gloom about every technological change,” Essa said. “Nothing is going to go away, but evolution is important. The role of technology in journalism will only increase and, therefore, collaboration is necessary for evolution in both fields.”

The College of Computing offered the first Computation + Journalism Symposium in 2008. According to Essa, despite its not having a journalism department, Georgia Tech’s dedication to human-centered computing makes the Institute a natural sponsor for the study of computational journalism. For more information about the symposium, including videos of all panel sessions, please visit Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology (IPaT) and GVU Center helped organize this event.

Penplusbytes Undertakes Transparency Project in Ghana 's Oil and Gas

The International Institute of ICT Journalism (Penplusbytes) is ready to roll out a new project on transparency and accountability of Ghana’s Oil and Gas Industry. The organization has received funding from STAR-Ghana to implement the project titled “Empowering the media to play an active role over oil and gas revenue and resources.’’

This project will on a long term increase the uptake of oil and gas stories by the Ghanaian media leading to an effective watch-dog role over Ghana’s oil and gas revenues and resources by training journalists from Ghanaian media houses to undertake investigative and in-depth stories which will better inform parliament and citizens to hold government accountable.

The project will also aim at increasing oil and gas information and knowledge exchange between the media and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) leading to effective opportunities for national dialogue on key oil and gas revenue management issues through a collaborative online platform to enhance advocacy on oil and gas revenues and resources as well as an overall improvement in relationships between media and civil society in undertaking a concerted advocacy campaign in the oil and gas sector. 

According to Penplusbytes Projects Director, Jerry Sam, “as part of the project, there will be organization of face to face forums for journalists and CSOs, mentoring and field trip as well as the development of media guide on reporting oil and gas stories which will go a long way in building the capacity of the media to effectively play their role in educating the public about the oil and gas sector whiles at the same time holding elected officials to account on Ghana’ s oil and gas revenue management.”

The project is expected to run for two years and during that period 20 Ghanaian journalists are expected to be equipped with specialized skills to effectively report on oil and gas contracts, licenses, environmental impact as a result of the industry, reporting on revenues and financial statements etc.

Penplusbytes in the past couple of years has provided leadership in training journalists to effectively report on extractive sectors in both Ghana and Uganda.

Editor's Note:

PENPLUSBYTES is a registered not for profit organization since 18th July 2001 with the vision of driving excellence in ICT journalism.

STAR-Ghana is a multi- donor pooled funding mechanism (Funded by DFID, DANIDA, EU and USAID) to increase the influence of civil society and Parliament in the governance of public goods and service delivery, with the ultimate goal of improving the accountability and responsiveness of Ghana's government, traditional authorities and the private sector.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Diageo Annual Africa Business Reporting Awards for 2013.

This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the Awards, which were initiated by Diageo to recognise journalists and editors who provide high quality coverage of the business environment in Africa. Following commissioned research, Diageo launched the Awards in order to raise awareness of the need for reliable, objective and comprehensive reporting on African business. Such reporting plays an important part in increasing investment flows to the continent by improving investors' perceptions and challenging negative stereotypes.


Entries are welcome in ten categories and are open to reporters and editors working on all media platforms. All entries are assessed and judged by an independent panel. The awards ceremony will be held on Thursday, 11 July 2013 in central London. The closing date for entry is Friday, 15 March, 2013. Entries can be submitted online at: There is no entry fee.


The Categories

1. Best Information and Communication Technology (ICT) feature

A feature or series of related features delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that examines any aspect of the ICT sector in a thoughtful and engaging way.


2. Best Finance feature

A feature or series of related features delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that examines any aspect of the finance/banking sector in a thoughtful and engaging way.


3. Best Infrastructure feature

A feature or series of related features delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that examines any aspect of infrastructure (physical or otherwise) in a thoughtful and engaging way. Features addressing issues of energy and transport can enter this category.


4. Best Agribusiness / Environment feature

A feature or series of related features delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that examines any aspect of agribusiness or environmental issues in a thoughtful and engaging way.


5. Best Tourism feature

A feature or series of related features delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that examines any business aspect of the tourism industry in a thoughtful and engaging way.


6. Best Business News story

A news story or series of related stories delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that:

  • Addresses a breaking news story from the time period of the awards
  • Answers all basic questions in a clear and balanced fashion
  • Demonstrates journalistic flair – a style that is engaging, thought-provoking and accessible to its audience

7. Best Business feature

A feature or series of related features delivered on any media platform (print, broadcast, online) that:

  • Examines business or the economy in an African context
  • Provides useful and relevant background material for readers
  • Provides the bigger picture and importance to Africa, as well as specific issues it might be addressing
  • Brings the business and economy to life through examples and use of language, while answering the serious questions


8. Best Newcomer

A portfolio of three features (can be across different platforms) by a journalist who has been working as a reporter for less than five years. Proof of first date of accreditation will be required.

9. Media of the Year

A print publication, broadcast programme/channel, website or blog that is a comprehensive resource for its audience providing sustained coverage of Africa's business and economic news, issues and analysis (sector-specific or otherwise).

10. Journalist of the Year

A portfolio of three features (on any one or a mixture of media platforms) of no more than 5,000 words or 1 hour each. Submitted pieces can cover different topics, industries or people, or be part of a series of reportage. Judges will be looking for features that reflect journalistic integrity and ethics and a true commitment to reporting that does not sensationalise stories or individuals.


For more information, visit or contact: Katherine Ambler, Awards Secretary, , +44 (0) 207 087 3797

follow up on twitter @penplusbytes 
International Institute for ICT Journalism

Sunday, February 03, 2013

News Challenge on open gov launches Feb. 12

The Knight News Challenge on open government will run from Feb. 12 to March 18. It's an opportunity to win part of the $5 million we'll use this year to support innovative projects.

We expect the News Challenge to generate proposals to improve the way citizens and governments interact. Projects could help parents evaluate schools,  make weather data more usable, identify best routes from one town to another, or identify pork in the federal budget.

Just as we do with "news," we're defining "open government" broadly.
Wikipedia says it  "holds that citizens have the right to access the documents and proceedings of the government to allow for effective public oversight." The OpenGov Foundation says it's about "making it easier for people to access and use as much government information as possible." In their book Open Government, Daniel Lathrop and Laurel Ruma describe it even more broadly as "transparency, collaboration and participation."

One of our goals for the News Challenge is to involve more people in the use of technology to solve community problems. "Dozens of developers looking at each other in conference rooms over pizza is never going to lead to making lives better…without the active involvement of real residents expressing real needs and advocating for software that makes sense to them,"
wrote Daniel O'Neil of the Smart Chicago Collaborative recently. We hope to help extend the spirit of open gov beyond those conference rooms, and to catalyze partnerships between hackers, civic innovators, governments, journalists and others. As a social investor, we feel the time is right to help advance the field.

We are looking for more than just applicants for this challenge; we're looking for participants. The challenge will open on Feb. 12 with an "inspiration" phase where anyone - journalists, state and local officials, citizens, community foundations, schools, others - can share problems they'd like to see solved and success stories they'd like to see accelerated. We hope they'll continue to participate with their comments as applicants start submitting project entries on Feb. 19. We'll announce the winners in June.

With this News Challenge, we're building on a number of existing and past Knight Foundation investments in the field — leaders like
Sunlight Foundation, Code for America, Open Knowledge Foundation; information and data projects like TurboVote, EveryBlock, The State Decoded, Poderopedia; and projects working to make it easier for citizens to engage with government, like, Textizen and Local Data. And projects built on open data are among the most popular at leading news organizations like the Texas Tribune and ProPublica.

Catherine Bracy (who worked with us on the News Challenge in 2011) recently described why she's decided to work on open gov at Code for America:

"…government is us. We get out of it what we put in and, as citizens, we don't have the luxury of being able to write government off. The only way for us to make it better is to engage with it. Technologists have so much potential to fix what's broken about democracy and it's vitally important that we do."

We'll have more details when we launch on Feb. 12 and will also hold open office hours at 1:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, Feb. 7. Stay tuned to @knightfdn and #newschallenge for more details.


STAR-Ghana awards grants to 49 institutions

STAR-Ghana on Thursday signed a 7.6 million-dollar grant agreement with 49 organizations to execute various projects in health and the oil and gas sectors.

The grants will facilitate the implementation of the organization's proposals on their various thematic areas aimed at ensuring improvement in access to quality health services and also promoting transparency and accountability in the oil and gas industry in respect to revenue disbursement in Ghana.

Mr Ibrahim-Tanko Amidu, Programme Manager and Team Leader, STAR-Ghana, in an address explained said seven of the beneficiaries under the oil and gas were CBOs in the Western Region only while the others have national coverage. Among these organisations are Penplusbytes, Kumasi Institute of Technology and Environment (KITE), Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and Center for Democratic Development (CDD).

He said priority was placed on CBOs in the Western Region to encourage their vigorous involvement in ensuring grassroots participation in advocacy and local governance as far as the oil and gas sector and revenue management were concerned, to ensure their communities development.

He stressed that it was critical that the partners collaborated in their various fields of work to promote transparency and accountability in the oil and gas industry in Ghana by monitoring the disbursement of oil revenues and ensuring that they were not misused, but rather  became beneficial to both their local communities and the nation as a whole.
Mr Amidu thanked the donor partners, which include the DFID, DANIDA, the European Union and the USAID for their continuous support.

Twenty nine organizations will benefit from the health thematic projects and 20 organizations for the oil and gas thematic projects. The projects span over a two-year period to promote access, transparency and accountability.

Beneficiaries include the West African AIDS Foundation, the Presbyterian Health Services, SEND Ghana, Ghana Integrity Initiative, Integrated Social Development Centre, Women in Law, Ghana National Association of the Deaf, Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights and ABANTU for Development. 

Other areas are to enhance gender and social responsiveness of the National Health Insurance Scheme among some vulnerable groups such as head porters (Kayayie) and senior citizens, to initiate policy advocacy and promote HIV and AIDS interventions.
The oil and gas grant, Mr Amidu explained, were awarded to two sets of groups which were made up of registered and recognized Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) in the Western Region only, and then all other registered Ghanaian Civil Society Organizations (CSO).

He, however, stated that as donor funding dwindled, it was important that Ghana generated its own funding mechanism to ensure that projects such as those supported by STAR-Ghana were sustained over the years.

STAR-Ghana, a multi-donor pooled funded mechanism, seeks to increase the influence of civil society and Parliament in the governance of public goods and service delivery, with the ultimate goal of improving the accountability and responsiveness of Ghana government, traditional authorities and the private sector.